82 flags, representing global and indigenous nations, hung above students in the Wick Center dining room for nearly a decade.
When students returned to Daemen after the recent intersemester break, the ceiling on the right side of the dining room was empty with the flags mysteriously absent.
It was not long into the semester before political science student Carlos McKnight went to speak to Ann Robinson, executive director of Global Programs, in order to find out why the flags had been removed. He was one of the first and most vocal students to voice his opinion.
“Personally, I thought that it was concerning to take them down in the first place because it represented the number of international students who attended or currently attend the college. So it showed our school’s diversity and many students who aren’t considered international have said they felt disrespected about it, too,” McKnight said.
According to Robinson, the flags were taken down to her surprise. She drafted a memo to Michael Brogan, vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of the college, offering for a new location for the flags.
“At a moment when we are trying to recruit and maintain students from diverse communities, removing the flags would send the message that we do not believe our international population is worthy of recognition,” she wrote.
Each flag represents the citizenship of every international student that has attended Daemen since 2007. This also includes students hailing from indigenous nations, including the Iroquois.
Robinson said that she had a few international students come into her office to ask what had happened to the flags. However, she noted that most of the students with concerns were actually domestic students.
Romanian student Cristina Apostol was curious about the flags whereabouts, but also did not have a major reaction to their removal. Part of that, she said, was due to her background.
“Most Europeans, we sort of just learn to go with the flow. Most things like that do not affect us,” she said.
Apostol, a sophomore, came from Bucharest to Daemen for volleyball and for a small school environment. She said that having a flag is nice, but you can still show pride and love without it.
“I feel like every person, I’m proud of my country, though I’m not proud of who leads my country,” she said.
Vice President for Student Affairs Greg Nayor explained that the flags were taken down in order to prepare for the plans to remodel the space. However, the work is being executed in phases due to construction costs.
“It is also a reality that we are a couple of years off from being able to do the work,” he said.
Nayor said he never understood why the flags were put into that corner in the first place, as he said that they were clustered in one corner and many remained fully obscured.
“Hindsight being 20/20, I did not realize many people would miss them as much as they did. Had I know that, I would have been more deliberate and waited to take them down until after a new place was decided for them,” he said.
Robinson’s proposal seeks to have the flags moved to the RIC atrium. Robinson, Nayor, McKnight, and Apostol all said that they supported this move, as not all students have a meal plan and go to the dining room where they can see the flags.
“We wanted a location where students congregate to show our diversity, which I think is really important,” Robinson said.
The cost is expected to be between $1500 and $2000. According to Nayor, the flags are projected to be moved to the new location over the summer.
For now, the flags remain folded neatly and kept at the Global Programs office.